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The Death of Common Sense: How Law Is Suffocating America Paperback – May 3, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Jerry E. Stephens, U.S. Court of Appeals Lib., Oklahoma City
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
In the decades since WWII, specific legal mandates designed to keep government in check have proliferated. The result is not better government, but more and poorer government. In a free society, we are supposed to be free to do what we want unless it is prohibited. But highly detailed regulations proscribing exactly what to do turn us toward centralized uniformity, Howard says, where law has replaced humanity. Detailed rules and uniform procedures have nonuniform effects when applied to specific situations.
Our old system of common law recognized the particular situation and invited the application of common sense. Common law evolved with the changing times and its truth was relative, Howard tells us, not absolute. But in this century statutes have largely replaced common law, and in recent decades regulations have come to dominate the legal landscape. Howard observes that the Interstate Highway System (still the nation's largest public works program) was authorized in 1956 with a 28-page statute. Now, we attempt to cover every situation explicitly. He cites one contract lawyer who received a proposed definition of the words and/or that was over three hundred words in length. (Let alone the more recent and prominent lawyer who parsed carefully over the definition of what the word "is" is.Read more ›
These snippets sound like lines from a Letterman or Leno monologue, but discouragingly they are all actual government dictates documented in this chilling expose. Phillip Howard does an admirable job of identifying the consequences when good-hearted bureaucrats create well-intentioned regulations, and government services get caught in a stranglehold.
Perhaps even more bilious than these splenetic monuments to red tape, are the huge work forces of administrators who are imprisoned by this uncontrollable system. Howard employs some macabre humor in redacting the plight of one troublesome government employee who purchased a lawn mower with his own money rather than navigate the labyrinth of paperwork necessary to order a replacement. For this breech of procedure, he earned a formal demerit.
Although the subject matter is serious and in deed frequently depressing, Howard often utilizes jocular techniques to make his point. His step by step specifications of NYC's contract bidding ritual would be the envy of any stand-up comic. Unfortunately, the laughing stops upon the realization that this vapid inefficiency is pandemic throughout all levels of our government. It's scary to see just how big Big Brother has become.
Mr. Howard's messages, evident throughout, are very obvious: we have substituted innovation with process, created enemies instead of cooperative societies, and squashed case-by-case reasoning under mountains of procedural law. There are so many "rights" covering every interest group that very little gets done for the benefit of the majority. "Trusting in the law" now means being wary of nearly everyone. Although sounding a bit rant-stricken at times, Mr. Howard offers up lots of food for thought ... some amazing stories. It's all pretty interesting and easy to read.
In my opinion, the last (and shortest) of the book's four parts, entitled "Releasing Ourselves," falls short of hitting on a way to get out from under suffocating law. I agree that initiative and responsibility are admirable attributes for executives in both the public and private arenas, and further, that universally applied policies that regulate the most minute procedural detail should instead have flexibility for more real-world applications. However, what happens when the most innovative of directives winds up injuring or killing someone? Will Joe Citizen give up his right (there's that word) to sue? I doubt it.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Read this almost 20 years ago and found it to be very informative. Reread it recently and was motivated to pursue his next two books and have not been disappointed. Read morePublished 12 days ago by A. Conrad
Should re-read this book today if you did not read it long ago.Published 1 month ago by Bobbie F Albanese
The administrative state and an overdose of laws and litigation are destroying America. If the US isn't yet terminally ill, this book would be an excellent resuscitation guide.Published 2 months ago by richard merlo
It explains why we have the problem in America. More well intended legislation with more loss of individual responsibility and decreasing productivity. Read morePublished 7 months ago by David McAtee